“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Kewaunee in Kewaunee County, Wisconsin — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)

Kewaunee Marsh Arsenic Spill Area


—Train derailment and Arsenic spill —

Kewaunee Marsh Arsenic Spill Area Marker image. Click for full size.
By Robert L Weber, September 4, 2009
1. Kewaunee Marsh Arsenic Spill Area Marker
Inscription. Why is the fence here?
The fence is to limit access to a contaminated area. In the early days the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) was contacted by a hunter that an area within the boundaries of the wildlife refuge was devoid of vegetation, and the area surrounding the void was severely distressed. The WDNR collected soil and water samples from the area and found high concentrations of arsenic. The C.D. Besadny wildlife area consists of over 22,000 acres of state-owned property including wetland, farmland, forest, and stream habitat in Pierce Township, Kewaunee County, Wisconsin.

Where did the arsenic come from?
Investigation efforts by both the WDNR and the Green Bay and Western Railroad suggest that high concentrations may have been caused by a spill or release of sodium arsenate during a train derailment sometime between 1938 and 1950. During this time period, sodium arsenate was a commonly used insecticide on Door County orchard trees. Arsenic does occur naturally in the environment but extremely high concentrations can be deadly. The impacted area within the wildlife area is adjacent to the former railroad track once operated by the railroad.

What has been done so far?
WDNR and railroad have joined in a cooperative investigation to determine degree and extent of problem. Initially the following

Kewaunee Marsh Arsenic Spill Area Marker image. Click for full size.
By Robert L Weber, September 4, 2009
2. Kewaunee Marsh Arsenic Spill Area Marker
steps were taken to prevent exposure to the impacted area. A fence was installed around the area of wetland affected by the higher arsenic concentrations.

A cover, or “Cap” was constructed over the area of highest concentration to limit contact by people, birds and animals. The cap was constructed from large sheets of Styrofoam floated on the land surface and covered with a geotextile fabric, to support a layer of wood chips and a dense vegetative mat. The investigation included sampling sediments in the wetland, installing and sampling a series of water monitoring wells. Studies have shown that the arsenic contamination at the marsh is not a drinking water concern.

Where do we go from here?
Groundwater and surface water at the impacted area continues to be monitored to track changes in arsenic concentration or movement at the site. The collected data will be used to determine methods to clean up the arsenic spill. The methods being studied include: 1. Solidifying and stabilizing the sediment to limit migration of arsenic, 2. Removing sediment impacted by arsenic and replacing it with clean soil fill; and 3. Installing a low permeability barrier between the river and the impacted area. The barrier would include a reactive flow-through material that acts like a filter, collecting and removing the arsenic.

Nearby Kewaunee Marshlands Walk image. Click for full size.
By Robert L Weber
3. Nearby Kewaunee Marshlands Walk
44° 28.544′ N, 87° 31.052′ W. Marker is in Kewaunee, Wisconsin, in Kewaunee County. Marker is on Ahbapee State Trail 0.2 miles east of River Road (County Route E). Click for map. Marker is in this post office area: Kewaunee WI 54216, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 2 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Barge "Emerald" (approx. 1.1 miles away); Father Marquette (approx. 1.3 miles away); Early History of Kewaunee (approx. 1.4 miles away); Car – Ferry Service (approx. 1.4 miles away); The Great Kewaunee Fire (approx. 1.4 miles away); Courthouse Square (approx. 1.5 miles away); Civil War and Cuban Veterans Monument (approx. 1.5 miles away); Kewaunee County Lime Kilns (approx. 2 miles away). Click for a list of all markers in Kewaunee.
Categories. EnvironmentRailroads & Streetcars
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Bob (peach) Weber of Prescott Valley, Arizona. This page has been viewed 892 times since then and 68 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on , by Bob (peach) Weber of Prescott Valley, Arizona. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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